A dozer operator was working on a waste pile when his vehicle sloughed into an adjacent pond and became submerged 12 feet beneath the water’s surface – according to an alert issued by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). A team of miners dug a trench and drained the pond to allow rescue crews to access the cab. The miner was freed after two hours below the surface.
MSHA has issued best practice guidelines following the incident.
- A competent person should look closely at any work area around a drop off for signs of instability, including cracks, sloughs, or changes in seepage/adjacent water levels when conducting a workplace exam.
- Use equipment (excavator) that can perform the work from a safe distance away from the edge of a pond where the stability of the ground may be unknown.
- Require that flotation devices be worn by persons performing work where there is a danger of falling in the water.
- When dozing toward a highwall edge, constantly examine the ground surface for development of cracks or fissures indicating separation, push perpendicular to the highwall face, and always keep a full blade in front of you.
- When dozing soft or unconsolidated material, be aware of changes in the footing under you and immediately back out of material that feels like it is softening.
- When work near water is necessary, the pool elevation should be maintained as low as practicable, night work should not be performed without adequate lighting, and equipment should work in pairs or others should maintain visual/verbal contact with solo equipment.